When was the last time you had your blood pressure checked?
Last week, I wrote in my column that we should learn to recognize early signs of stroke because if you receive clot busting medications within three to 4.5 hours then your chance of survival and living without disability is considerably improved.
So, what can you do to prevent stroke?
There are many things you can do to prevent stroke. One of the most import things you can do is to keep your blood pressure under control. Especially, in the current worsening economic situation.
We know that anxiety does not cause permanent high blood pressure but it can cause dramatic temporary spikes of high blood pressure which can cause damage to our blood vessels and vital organs like heart and kidneys. It can damage the brain and retina. Persistent or recurrent anxiety can make us prone to picking up bad habits like smoking, drinking or eating too much unhealthy food. Combination of these factors can increase our risk of high blood pressure.
Nearly two-thirds of all cases of stroke and one-half of all cases of coronary heart disease are directly related to hypertension. What is scarier is that most cases of hypertension either go undiagnosed or untreated. That is why it is called a silent killer. You may have high blood pressure but may not have any symptoms.
World Health Organization says that hypertension causes seven million premature deaths worldwide each year. Hypertension affects 22 percent of Canadians. It is estimated that 25 percent of the 42 million people with high blood pressure in the United States are unaware that they have hypertension. It is a ticking but silent time bomb ready to explode any time.
The incidence of hypertension increases with age. Most elderly Canadians have high blood pressure – probably due to thickening of blood vessels. No cause is identified in 80 to 95 percent of people with hypertension. This is known as idiopathic or essential hypertension. Others have hypertension due to primary disease of kidneys or due to certain hormonal disorders.
We eat too much and we do not exercise enough. Our blood vessels become harder and less compliant with age. When the blood is pumped out of the heart into less compliant blood vessels, the blood pressure goes up. So the heart has to work harder – and eventually it becomes tired, weak and fails. It silently causes damage to our vital organs and eventually results in heart attack, congestive heart failure, stroke, kidney failure and blindness.
Normally, systolic blood pressure should be less than 140 mm Hg (mercury) and diastolic pressure of less than 90 mm Hg. Blood pressure is lowest in the early morning, rises as the day progresses, and then dips down during the night and earliest hours of the morning.
Hypertension can be prevented and treated with lifestyle changes – with or without medication. Eat a healthy diet, lose weight if you are overweight, do not smoke, limit alcohol intake, eat a low salt diet, minimize sugar intake, do regular exercise, relax and learn to manage stress with laughter and meditation.
If your doctor wants you take pills to control your blood pressure then make sure you take it regularly. Research has shown that 50 per cent of the patients with high blood pressure discontinue their antihypertensive medications by the first year. This is no good.
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